The Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special was the standard weapon of the NYPD until retired in late 1993, but it is still popular with many handgun enthusiasts.
by Mike Garman
When purchasing a firearm a used gun is a good option, but if you ask the question new or used in any gun related forum, you’ll be sure to start an argument. So when my friend Tara decided she wanted a revolver for her growing collection, it was off to the Small Arms Review show (SAR) to see what we could find. The goal was to find the best deal we could on a 4-inch barreled .357 magnum or .38 Special in stainless with a budget of $350.
The SAR show is held yearly at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and is a huge show, with original equipment manufacturers, dealers and private parties in attendance. This three day show is enormous and fills all of the permanent structures at the fairgrounds as well as a couple of tents it is very well attended. Put on by the Small Arms Review magazine they have not only the normal gun show vendors but also manufactures like GemTec, Lone Wolf and J&G sales to name a few. I’ve gone to this show many times and have never failed to find a deal.
After many hours wandering the aisles and looking at quite a few guns that were way out of our price range we found a small dealer that had a Smith & Wesson model 64 in polished stainless steel on their table. This revolver is a .38 Special with a 4” barrel, Hogue grips, square butt and a bobbed hammer, making it double action only (DAO). Doing a quick inspection revealed mostly cosmetic problems with worn grips and holster wear on the barrel and cylinder, while the bore was bright and clean with hardly any wear. With a price tag of $299, it was too good to pass up. So we filled out the required paperwork and took our prize home.
A detailed inspection and cleaning didn’t turn up any surprises, but we did find out a couple of interesting factoids about this gun. Stamped on the cylinder yoke cut-out was MOD 64 and NY-1. After some research we found that this was one of the earlier models and one 2,169 confirmed pieces recorded in the 4-inch barrel, square butt variation, with a total of 5,479 guns delivered to the NYPD from 1987 thru 1993. Smith & Wesson was required by the NYPD to stamp all pistols with the NY-1 designation as part of the contract. S&W delivered a mixed group of two and four inch barreled Model 64s to the NYPD, later firearms were marked MOD 64-4 or 64-5, but it is not an indication of the barrel length. This particular version is only marked with MOD 64. making it one of the early batches of guns delivered.
As I mentioned earlier, the wear on this revolver is mostly cosmetic with scuff marks and worn areas where it rubbed against the holster. In the 80’s a lot of police departments only required its officers to qualify with a firearm once a year, and the condition of the barrel and cylinder on this revolver indicates that it spent most of its life in its holster.
One of the oddities of this Smith & Wesson is the bobbed hammer, which makes this DAO. Because of this the trigger pull is very heavy, 8 pounds, but certainly manageable even for a woman with small hands. Changing the Power Rib Mainspring will help reduce the heavy trigger pull and is a fairly minor bit of gun smithing. You can get a reduced power spring set for about $15. The reason for having a bobbed hammer and DAO is to prevent an accidental discharge, both when attempting to de-cock the weapon or when placing a finger on the trigger.
A weapons caliber is another one of those things that is sure to start and argument about which is better. Chambered in .38 S&W Special this revolver is a good compromise between stopping power, recoil and cost, but you’ll get an argument out of some people. The military and police used the .38 Special for a lot of years, so who am I to say they are wrong. One thing to note is there is a difference between a .38 S&W cartridge and a .38 S&W Special cartridge. A .38 S&W is shorter and fatter than a .38 S&W Special, and they are not interchangeable.
Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special is a joy, because of the weight the recoil is easily manageable but as mentioned previously the trigger is very heavy. It does not have any slack in it and has a nice clean break, and with a little work it can be much better.
The sights on this revolver leave a lot to be desired with a groove on top of the receiver and fixed blade on the barrel, making proper sight alignment difficult for me at distances over 15 feet. However at home defense or zombie slaying distances, which are typically 7 to 10 feet, they are fine.
Caliber: .38 Special +P
Capacity: 6 shot cylinder
Barrel Length: 4″
Overall Length: 9″
Weight: 36 ounces (2.25 lb. unloaded
Sight: Integral front, fixed rear
Action: Double action only
Trigger Pull: 8 pounds
Finish: polished steel